asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is able to report the outcome of his recent exercise in inviting tenders for the supply of computer terminals for the computerisation of social security; and if he will make a statement.
A contract for computer terminals and associated equipment has been awarded to British Telecom. I made clear in the White Paper on the "Reform of Social Security" that we are committed to bringing the benefits of new technology to the service of the social security system. The Department's computerisation programme, the Operational Strategy, will help us to process claims and enquiries more efficiently than at present. The equipment contract awarded today to British Telecom is a fundamental part of that programme. The terminals will connect authorised staff in local social security offices to central computers by secure communications links. Claimant confidentiality will be fully maintained and the system will comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Act.